Resolving a dispute with a trader

Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) is a quicker and cheaper alternative to court, where consumers and businesses can resolve their disputes.

Our ADR scheme is available to consumers who are in dispute with a business in relation to goods or services they have bought.

You may appoint a third-party to assist you at any stage in the process. Where you do so, they will have to register their details with us as a representative and you will have to provide your consent for them to act on your behalf.

You must get the agreement of the business to participate in the scheme before you apply. If the business does not agree, you cannot apply.

To use this service:

  • you must have exhausted the business's complaints process
  • your dispute must not have already been referred to the courts or another certified alternative dispute resolution provided
  • you must apply to our service within 12 months of the trader indicating that they were unable or unwilling to resolve the matter through their internal complaints process
  • the value of the claim must be between £100 and £40,000
  • the dispute is not deemed to be frivolous or vexatious in nature
  • you must apply in English and accept that the process will be conducted in English
  • you must be an EU resident.

Before you apply

You must contact the business you are in dispute with and get their agreement to participate in the Alternative Dispute Resolution process. You cannot apply if the business doesn't agree to participate. Contact Citizens Advice consumer service via Citizens Advice website or on 03454 04 05 06 (Monday to Friday 9am to 5pm) to find out what options are available to you. ​

Apply

Cost

You will need to pay an administration fee of:

  • £15 (including VAT) for claims up to £1,000
  • £35 (including VAT) for claims over £1,000.

This fee is non-refundable. If we do not receive payment within 7 days, we will delete your application and evidence.

The business will also need to pay a fee to continue your claim. The amount will depend on the claim value. View the cost to the business which is different to your fee.

Evidence

It is your responsibility to prove the case that you are making, including justifying any sums of money you are seeking to claim.

The standard of proof is 'on the balance of probabilities'. This means that you have proved that it is more likely than not that what you are saying is true.

You must submit evidence in support of your claim. The better and more organised your evidence, the stronger your claim will be.

As well as providing evidence showing what you say is wrong, you must also provide evidence showing why the amount claimed is appropriate.

It is important that your evidence is well organised. To find out more about what types of evidence you need to provide and how to organise it effectively, read our guidance (PDF, 108.2 KB). We strongly recommend that you follow this guidance to the best of your ability.

Your evidence, and any evidence provided by the business, is the only information used to inform the decision, so please make sure you include everything relevant and that the copies are legible. Including lots of irrelevant evidence can make your case less clear.

Our ADR officials will not make any enquiries beyond what you and the business tell them. They are not able to conduct site visits, will not respond to comments like “these are available on request” and will not ask for evidence from other parties like trade associations.

Do not submit original documents with your application as we are unable to return evidence to you. At the conclusion of the process your application and all documents will be securely destroyed.

If you have any questions about the application process please email adr@kent.gov.uk.

A copy of your application and evidence will be sent to the business. The business will have 7 days from when they receive your application to submit their evidence. Paper applications will take longer to process than online applications.

You and the business will both see the evidence supplied by each other and will be given the opportunity to comment on it and provide further evidence in relation to it.

We will notify you and the business when all the evidence has been received. We will make our decision and communicate it to both parties within 28 days of receiving all of the evidence. If the case is so complex that it will take longer than 28 days, we will notify both you and the business and provide an estimated time frame for our work.

We will consider all of the evidence and reach a conclusion based on the principles of fairness, equity, relevant law and trade standards. Our decision will be based on the written evidence alone. We won't ask you or the trader to give spoken evidence and we won't follow up with witnesses. We will make an adjudication solely on the evidence and award financial recompense if appropriate.

The onus is on you and the business to be clear, transparent and honest. Where there is evidence of dishonesty by either the business or by you then this may be taken into account by the adjudicator and the matter may be reported to the police.

We will produce a written report and conclusion. If you applied online we will send your report by email. If you applied by post we will send it by post.

If we find in your favour we may include costs you have incurred in securing evidence in your award.  It is important that you set out these costs when you apply.

The outcome is not binding on you as a consumer. The outcome is binding on the business only if there is a legal requirement for them to be bound or if it is a condition of their membership of a trade association or similar body that they agree to be bound.

Should you or the business not accept our decision and the matter ends up before a court, the court may take into account our findings in reaching their conclusions.

You and the business may withdraw from the process at any time. Only businesses that have a legal duty to participate as a condition of their membership of a trade association or similar body cannot withdraw.

Your personal information

For the purposes of the Alternate Dispute Resolution Scheme you will need to give us your name, address, phone number and email address on the application form.

We will keep your personal details on our secure database and at this stage we will only share them with the business you are in dispute with. We will delete your application, including your personal details, from our database if we do not receive the fee from you and/or the business.

If payment is received from you and the business, we will share your application with the adjudicator to make a decision. Outside of the ADR scheme we will only show your application to bodies responsible for auditing the scheme for the purposes of the accreditation. Your application, including the adjudicator’s decision, will be kept on our secure database for 6 years before being deleted.

How the scheme operates

This scheme is owned and run by Kent County Council and is totally independent. For administrative purposes it is housed within Kent County Council's Public Protection service.

The scheme is fully accredited by the Chartered Trading Standards Institute under the Alternative Dispute Resolution for Consumer disputes (Competent Authorities and information) Regulations 2015.

Our scheme is led and managed by a Chartered Trading Standards Practitioner.

Officials employed by the scheme will assess the evidence presented to them and form a judgement with regard to the most effective means of resolving the dispute. Our officials are all Trading Standards professionals with appropriate qualifications and experience in relation to consumer law, assessment of evidence and decision making. Officials are remunerated from the scheme’s resources on a fixed fee basis and are not incentivised in any way beyond this.

When considering your case our adjudicators will take into account the following principles: the law, any known industry standards, fairness and equity.

Consumers may withdraw from the process at any time. Business may withdraw at any time unless there is a legal duty on them to participate or it is a condition of their membership of a trade association or similar body that they participate.

The outcome is not binding on the consumer. The outcome is binding on the business only if there is a legal requirement for them to be bound or if it is a condition of your membership of a trade association or similar body that they agree to be bound.

Read the scheme rules and procedure (PDF, 182.7 KB).

View the process (PDF, 9.9 KB).

Read the 2017 Alternative Dispute annual report (PDF, 133.7 KB)

We abide by the regulations for Alternative Dispute Resolution schemes.

If you have any further questions, email adr@kent.gov.uk.

Our officials

NameTitleRole
Mark Rolfe Chartered Trading Standards Practitioner ADR Manager
Tammy Carroll Chartered Trading Standards Practitioner ADR Official
Gina Douglas Chartered Trading Standards Practitioner ADR Official
Caroline Elliott Principal Trading Standards Officer ADR Official
Peter Stonely Chartered Trading Standards Practitioner ADR Official
Richard Strawson Chartered Trading Standards Practitioner ADR Official

A business cannot initiate the ADR process.

Your customer needs to apply and pay the appropriate fee. You will then be notified by email and will have 7 days after receiving the email to confirm you agree to ADR and to submit your evidence.

It is important that your evidence is well organised. To find out more about what types of evidence you need to provide and how to organise it effectively, read our guidance (PDF, 108.2 KB). We strongly recommend that you follow this guidance to the best of your ability.

Cost

The cost to you will be:

Claim valueFee (plus VAT)
£100 to £1999£200
£2000 to £2999£300
£3000 to £4999£400
£5000 to £40,000£500

We will notify you of your fee and and how you can pay, and will require payment before we can continue with the adjudication.